By Adekunle Adekoya
FOR those who read this column, I wish to recommend that the main story on the page preceding this be read first, and recall previous outings of this column on this issue, which is that of realistically jump-starting the Nigerian economy and kicking it, screaming like a new born-baby into the 21st century.
Like many others who feel sufficiently concerned, there is no way Vision 20-2020 can be realized without at least fifty per cent of everything we currently import being made here in Nigeria by Nigerians for Nigerians and the export market. The way we are going, especially importing petroleum products while we refuse to refine the crude we have, nothing much will be achieved outside the unending rhetoric of our rulers.
In the story on the preceding page I referred to, the High Commissioner of Pakistan to Nigeria, Muhammad Ashraf Saleem visited the National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA in Abuja, where he said that his country “adopted home grown tech approach which suited what we needed. Through this, we have been able to manufacture many ICT products by ourselves.”
You will agree with me that we do not need the Pakistani envoy to tell us which path to tread, or what to eat, for that matter. Nigeria is blessed with abundant human resources, which, if properly deployed in the last 50 years of our independence, would have taken us beyond the moon, and made this nation of great peoples the one to be respected most in the world.
I recall President Goodluck Jonathan’s Buy-Nigeria directive, announced by Information Minister Labaran Maku at the end of a cabinet meeting just weeks before the general elections of 2011. If that directive had been given the tenacity of pursuit and enforcement, it would have begun with foreign-brand computers vanishing from government offices.
Just imagine if all federal MDAs are using computers made in Nigeria by Zinox, Omatek, Brian, Beta Computers and the others, they would have transformed, in just two years into gigantic corporations. Even then, more OEMs would have sprung up, generating thousands of jobs for the ever-energetic Nigerian! But what do we have? Lip service, that’s what!
Mr Ashraf Saleem of Pakistan made the good point that we will not be able to manufacture ICT products until government makes importation of those products less attractive and put in place policies that will make local brands to thrive.
Mr Saleem should know; his country and India stubbornly refused to be coerced by the West into dropping nuclear capability ambitions and suffered sanctions as a result. Thus, what they could no longer import because of sanctions, they now make. In retrospect, those who sanctioned Pakistan turned out to be her best friends!
In about 15 months, elections will hold, and INEC will need new, more computers. We are trying to do a national ID project. We are trying to give computers to our children in schools. We are building IT parks. Everybody is buying smart phones and tablets. But we are importing all of them. I think we are trying to sail to England in a canoe; we won’t get there, and that’s not a curse. We must rethink and retool our system from this analog approach and get truly digital in our thinking and ways of doing things.